Before you lose interest and go to the Internet to look up what is bhang, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you. Bhang is an intoxicating drink made of the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, which is infused in whole milk. Bhang is also known as the ”nectar of the Gods”.
Bhang’s origins are from the Vedas, an ancient Indian religious text from 1500 BCE. Gods and demons churned the ocean, and a drop of this nectar fell in the Himalayan Mountains and a plant sprouted. The drink from the leaves of the plant became a favorite of all Gods, including Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva’s story is a little complicated. The simple of it is that Lord Shiva is considered a member of the holy trinity of Hinduism. The trimurti consists of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer.
Now we go to the complex. He sometimes represents goodness and benevolence. He is also the leader of evil spirits, ghosts, master of thieves, villains and beggars. When he is meditating in the Himalayas, he is the great ascetic, abstaining from all forms of indulgence and pleasure, focusing rather on meditation as a means to find happiness. He is the protector of the Vedas and a patron of Yogis and Brahmins. When he comes down to earth he indulges and destroys.
And destruction is not necessarily bad. He is associated with fire, which we need. Fire cooks and transforms food. Fire burns a forest and regenerates it anew. He is responsible for decaying carbon matter: humans, animals, and plants. He is responsible for destroying the illusions and imperfections of this world and paving a way for beneficial change. That is why he is also associated with time. His power of destruction is not random, but constructive.
Shiva is complex: both good and evil, dark and light. This duality is why he is associated with Cannabis, or vijaya. Cannabis brings on anxiety and then has a calming effect. It is used for meditation, to emulate his many daylong retreats in the Himalayas Mountains. It is used for intoxication, to emulate his hedonistic pursuits on Earth.
It is not a coincidence that Lord Shiva’s elixir is used around the Spring Equinox. Humans through history get stir crazy with those last few days of winter. Our food stores would have come to an end, we would be tired of sitting around in the cold, and we would have wanted to party. The winter season is a sign of those destructive forces of Shiva and the promise of spring summons creation. Maha Shivaratri, the great night of Shiva, was just this Monday, Holi and the Spring Equinox are both on March 20. All of these days are associated with Lord Shiva and people drink bhang. It is a long and distant memory of Shiva. Lord Shiva brought Cannabis down from the Himalayas Mountains for humans. Drinking bhang is to remember him, to experience the destructive forces in our mind, and to experience an awakening in our consciousness. It is to remember that life is all an illusion, but it is also grand. Cheers!
If you would like to understand more about the science behind Cannabis, Dr. Jamila Owen-Todd and I will be giving a talk on April 6th on the science of the cannabinoids, terpenes and phyto-chemicals. Join us for a fun filled day with tea, CBD talks, and everything that makes this plant a key in healing therapy!
Stay tuned, I will be writing about the reasons for Cannabis to be mixed with milk!